We've all sat in our desks, huddled over a sad sandwich, a limp salad, or last night's disappointing leftovers. Admit it. It's OK. It's simply a byproduct of being overworked. But now it's summer, when things are supposed to slow down. Even if your workload hasn't subsided, the brutal heat is more than enough to make you drag a bit more than usual.
Miami Spice offers the perfect opportunity to cast aside your usual lunch habits. Grab a friend, a co-worker, or your butane hash oil dealer and head out. At last check, 102 of the 188 restaurants participating in Miami Spice offered lunch. As with dinner, beware the dubious chicken-pasta-skirt-steak option. Also keep an eye out for the ones that don't offer any value or creativity. Of course, a lack of value can be forgiven if someone is pulling out all the stops.
We've carefully looked through the options and present to you some of the best. Spice starts August 1, which is plenty of time to think up a reason to tell your boss why you won't be back in the afternoon.
Jan Jorgensen is pulling out all the stops at his Two Chefs on South Dixie Highway. Every weekday, he offers at least six choices for appetizers and entrées, making this the ideal place for a group. Appetizers span beef carpaccio, tuna tartare in huancaína sauce, crabcakes, or sweet roasted golden beets. Next, feel free to choose from meatloaf with barbecue-style black beans, steak-frites, or a seared tuna steak. It’ll be worth the drive for you downtowners and an easy sell for those in South Miami.
Things haven’t slowed down at this Brickell Italian spot since longtime head chef Julian Baker departed for Texas. If you happen to catch a cooler-than-usual summer day, sit outside on the South Miami Avenue-facing patio and watch the commotion rush by. Enjoy it with Wagyu beef tartare sprinkled with "bottarga" culled from cured egg yolks. Keep the theme going with a Wagyu rib eye from ranches near Ocala, or visit the sea with a squid-ink risotto studded with succulent rock shrimp. Toscana also offers one of the more enticing dessert options: an almost-savory buttermilk panna cotta infused with flowery cardamom.
Vagabond Restaurant & Bar
This MiMo District spot helmed by 20-something chef Alex Chang is the year’s hot spot. Every Tuesday through Friday, he dishes out some of his favorite sandwiches. There’s his juicy classic cheeseburger that was featured prominently in the 2013 documentary about the illegal restaurant he and friends ran while attending the University of Southern California. The other looker is a pork tonkatsu sandwich, in which a classic fried Japanese-style cutlet is squeezed between slices of white bread and topped with tart fermented yuzu sauerkraut and spicy mustard. Don’t forget to start with the Danish open-faced sandwich called smørrebrød. It’s a rugged, dense brown bread topped with house-cured salmon, cucumber, dill frill, and poppy seeds.
DB Bistro Moderne
The opportunity to eat fare created by French legend Daniel Boulud for only $23 is simply too good to miss. Monday through Friday, you can nibble on a duck ballotine with peaches, almond, and cherries. The entrées aren’t the most thrilling, with the dreaded chicken option, but this is Boulud’s chicken paillard and warrants a try. Also consider the nine-herb ravioli with romano beans, hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, and Taleggio cheese. A similar pasta on the regular menu — nettle garganelli with peas, prosciutto cotto, and Parmesan — can cost $28 alone.
At this point, the Fontainebleau Miami Beach’s Chinese haute hideaway has become the stuff of Miami Spice legend. The lunch (or brunch if you like) menu, offered Saturday and Sunday, is a greatest-hits list of the lacquered space’s dim sum offerings. Here, individual items such as a bowl of noodles usually cost up to $16. The $23 Spice menu presents those noodles with a basket stuffed with lotus root chicken shumai, Chinese chive shrimp dumplings, wild mushroom and truffle dumplings, and sugar snap pea and shrimp dumplings.
La Mar by Gastón Acurio
Diego Oka is showing off Peru’s Asian influences. Lunch will be offered daily, excluding Sundays, inside Brickell Key’s Mandarin Oriental, offering stunning views of Brickell’s growing high-rises. Here, things start with a criollo sampler offering a ceviche with salmon, peanuts, ginger, wonton strips, cilantro, pickled vegetables, and sesame leche de tigre. It’s followed by the chilled potato salad called causa, with beets, artichokes, Peruvian asparagus, piquillo peppers, and avocado. Last is jaleita de calamar, with fried calamari, rocoto pepper ceviche sauce, and the spicy vegetable medley chalaca. Later, you’ll dig into crisp fried rice studded with mixed seafood.
Costas Spiliadis’ spot in South of Fifth seems to be one of the few places in Miami that is absurdly expensive and loved because of it. Has anyone ever bragged to you about the $1,000-plus dinner they ate there? There’s a reason. Each week, Estiatorio Milos brings in the Mediterranean’s freshest catch, Greek debt crisis be damned. The Miami Spice lunch is a seven-day affair, and almost every option takes advantage of the sea. Grab house-cured salmon or toothsome grilled octopus to start. There’s also a mezze option that includes tarama, tzatziki, htipiti, manouri cheese, olives, and cherry tomatoes. Later on, there’s Mediterranean sea bream, Icelandic cod, or pasta tossed with lobster and a light tomato sauce. Finish it off with some Greek yogurt and honey so as to not break your Mediterranean diet.
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SHOW ME HOW
The Pubbelly Boys know how to do Spice right. Rather than plying you with some gussied-up version of skirt steak, pasta, and chicken, they offer most of their vast menu Monday through Friday. Here’s the deal: Select six options from the bistro section. That could include a classic tortilla and spicy chorizo in cider, or choose oxtails braised in tempranillo or escargots with rabbit sausage, parsley, and garlic butter. Also, feel free to delve into the salad section with a tomato-watermelon salad, and later a paella-style rice. Finish it off with dessert, and good luck getting back to work.